Sally Reviews The Princess Academy; Everybody is Guest-Post Writing

I learned about Shannon Hale from Stephenie Meyer‘s Breaking Dawn acknowledgments page: Thanks to my peer support, Shannon Hale, for understanding everything.

Oh! How joining that group would be sweeter than all the Be Fri – St Ends necklaces in the world.

The next best thing was a trip to the library, where I got Austenland, Shannon Hale’s first grown-up book, and Sally got The Princess Academy, her Newberry Honor book.

At first Princess Academy wasn’t princessy enough for Sally, who’s seen Barbie as the Island Princess one too many times. A few weeks later, after a detour through the old Nancy Drew books, Sally picked up Princess Academy again, and this time she was hooked. I sat down with her last night to see if it’s something I’d like to read:

On a scale of 1 to Harry Potter, how was it? I liked it as much.

What was your favorite part? When the bandits came.

Was it set in the real world? No, it was set in somebody else’s world, but that world seemed real.

Would you like to live in that world? No, it’s all cold on Mount Eskel.

Would you recommend it to your friends? Yes. What about the boys? I think boys would like it — there are princes and stuff in it.

There you have it: Two Thumbs Up for The Princess Academy. Sally is seven, but I think it would appeal to tweens, teens, and even grown-ups who remember reading Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books and Ursula K. LeGuin.

As for Austenland, I couldn’t help comparing it to the Twilight series, even though they are incredibly different. The authors share many characteristics — they’re both female, Mormon, mothers of small children, and both write YA books. They also both write romance-y books for a PG audience.

The first half of Austenland was delightful. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I read Melinda’s copy of the Complete Jane Austen when I was thirteen, and that I watch both the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth and Keira Knightley/Matthew MacFadyen Pride and Prejudices regularly. Hale’s writing is fantastic. One of her images still thrills me: she compares an middle-aged woman suddenly outshone by a younger flirty woman to a wilted carrot in the back of the refrigerator. I’ve had enough sad carrots in my crisper to love this image!

But the romance/plot is ultimately unsatisfying. I want to be convinced that my hero and heroine belong together. That they deserve each other, fit together, that their relationship will last. And she couldn’t convince me of that. Contrast that to Stephenie Meyer, who is not the world’s greatest writer. And who could use an editor like that carrot could use a shot of adrenaline.

But Stephenie Meyer is an incredible storyteller. Her plots are satisfying and convincing and I feel like I will die if her characters don’t end up together.

Is it too much to ask for great storytelling and fantastic writing all in the same book? Maybe they could collaborate? I mean, when they’re not busy understanding each other?


If you’ve ever wondered how to (or if you should) express your religious beliefs in your online writing, check out my guest post at Segullah today: Have you born your testimony on YouTube yet?

And for a great example of the power of blogging for good, check out Blog Community Supports Injured Couple. Tara at The Well-Rounded Woman talks about how bloggers have raised money and pulled together for Stephanie and Christian Nielson.

Aack. I just realized I’m a week behind on the theme. Sorry! Next month I’ll have a children’s book. Promise.

MMSM: The Rainbow Fish Conspiracy

I could probably maintain an entire blog just about the (childrens) books that make an old-fashioned book-burning look totally defensible. But honestly, the gag-reflex I get from Angelina Ballerina is greatly eclipsed by the desire to glut myself on endless re-readings of Dumpy LaRue, Julius, the Baby of the World, The Ordinary Princess, and everything by L.M. Montgomery.

But where’s the fun in slavering adoration? Besides, the House quote I chose for today is: 

Dr. Wilson: Beauty often seduces us on the road to truth.
Dr. Gregory House: And triteness kicks us in the nads.

I don’t really know what this means: “Beauty often seduces us on the road to truth.” The wisdom of House’s comeback is apparent Every. Single. Sunday. At. Church.

Beauty often seduces us on the road to truth

Does it mean that on your way to falling for your chemistry lab partner:

 chemistry lab partner

You get distracted by the captain of the lacrosse team:

brad pitt

Or does it mean that if something looks good and sounds good, it’s easy to overlook the real message? Like, say, that great children’s morality tale The Rainbow Fish? Ostensibly about sharing (good) and vanity (bad), I am not the first to point out that it’s really a clumsy parable about the virtues of socialistic society in which anything good (beauty) must be shared  (enforced by emotional manipulation) for any kind of happiness to be achieved. But I think it’s even worse than that. I KNOW. Can it be?

Let’s consider how an earnest parent could use The Rainbow Fish as pre-standardized test preparation (Hey, it’s cheaper than Kaplan Review):

How to Read to Your Children so They Ace the ACT

1) Ask comprehension questions: Why is Rainbow Fish sad?

2) Introduce If-Then logic construction: If Rainbow Fish gives a scale to the other fish, then            ?

3) Vocabularic Analogy: Scale is to Ocean as Fur is to         .     

4) Math: If R.F. swims at 5 mph and Daddy still cannot find our house in the dark, how long would it take R.F. to get home?

5) Moral Dilemma: When the other fish refuse to play with Rainbow Fish if he won’t surrender his very epidermis to them, is that just a reminder of the IRS’s role in our lives or a commentary on the greedy, petty nature of mankind?

6) MD #2: When Rainbow Fish agreed to appear on TV in a mediocre animated series with dubious plotting and suspect moral pronouncements, was he selling out?

The problem with The Rainbow Fish is that every parent wants to see their child as Rainbow Fish, the  beautiful, unique, WELL above-average fish who learns that it’s better to look like everyone else if that means everyone else will play with you. Wait, that’s not it. I mean, R.F. learns that sharing makes him happy. Right.

What about all the ugly non-rainbow fish? What if my kid is an ugly fish, a fish without whatever it is the special fish has, pushing, covetous of someone else’s Wii? Do I really want her to learn from this book that she should withhold her friendship and empathy until that Wii is cut in enough pieces to share with the entire neighborhood? I don’t think so.


For an only-to-true look at the other House quote for this week, check out this funny post from Sit. Stay. Good Blog. I especially like the part where her boss asks her to find a heartfelt, personalized Mother’s Day sentiment for him to deliver.

Dr. Cameron: Men should grow up.
Dr. Gregory House: Yeah. And dogs should stop licking themselves. It’s not gonna happen.

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